Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Rhizomic Radicalism and Arborescent Advocacy: A Deleuzo-Guattarian Reading of Rural Protest

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Rhizomic Radicalism and Arborescent Advocacy: A Deleuzo-Guattarian Reading of Rural Protest

Article excerpt

New social movements are frequently characterised as 'rhizomic' or 'rhizomatic' in form. The rhizome metaphor, derived from Deleuze and Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus, emphasises the openness and fluidity of social movements and the capacity of protests to jump between localities and scales without overarching coordination (see, for example, Chesters and Welsh, 2006; Escobar, 1995; Griffin, 2008; Juris, 2008; McFarlane and Hay, 2000; Schlosberg, 1999), their decentred, polycephalous, and reticular structures (della Porta and Diani, 2006), and their transcendent and transgressive spatialities (Featherstone, 2008; McFarlane, 2009; Routledge, 1997). However, the analytical potential of a Deleuzo-Guattarian conceptualisation of rhizomes and arborescence as organising tendencies has arguably remained underdeveloped in social movement studies. In most cases, the rhizome has been employed simply as a metaphor to describe the morphology of social movements or protest events, though in some it has been inaccurately conflated with networks. The corresponding existence of arborescent political forms is rarely acknowledged or demonstrated, such that the relationship between the two remains unexplored, whilst the implied exclusive association of rhizomic forms with new social movements arguably imbues rhizomes with greater inherent radicalism than Deleuze and Guattari's discussion warrants (see also Gilbert, 2010).

In this paper we develop a more critical and nuanced application of Deleuzo-Guattarian concepts of rhizomes and arborescence to political organisation, extrapolating models of arborescent and rhizomic politics before collapsing this dualism by exploring the interaction and interplay of the rhizomic and the arborescent in a context of political change. Therefore, we argue that arborescent and rhizomic political formations do not represent two discrete modalities of politics, but that political systems intrinsically contain both arborescent and rhizomic tendencies that achieve articulation at different points within a cycle of political stability. These dynamics are illustrated by a case study of contemporary rural politics in Britain, but the approach has a wider applicability for understanding the organisational forms of new social movements, and their role in political transformation.

Rhizomes and arborescence in Deleuze and Guattari

Deleuze and Guattari (1988) observed that "everything is political, but every politics is simultaneously a macropolitics and a micropolitics" (page 213). In collapsing the macro and the micro, in conceiving politics as "the regulation of the interchange of molar segmentation and molecular flow" (Bonta and Protevi, 2004, page 127), Deleuze and Guattari point beneath the molar politics of social, economic, and ideological cleavages that constitute the shorthand of political studies, to expose the messiness and dynamism of molecular politics that comprise, disrupt, and leak from the molar or macro form. Thus, Deleuze and Guattari's theorising breaks politics down to micropolitics (Colebrook, 2002), yet also considers how micropolitical and molecular interests and impulses are assembled as structures and strategies that can intercede with the molar, capture and deploy power, and territorialise and stratify to conjure into being plateaus of apparent stability (Deleuze, 1988).

The dominance of the state follows from its success in deploying power relations for its own ends, but neither the state nor the molar political assemblages that comprise the mainstream polity of Western democracies enjoy a monopoly on power. Power can be captured and turned against them by new assemblages (meshings-together of self-ordering heterogeneous elements striving for consistency), representing new constellations of molecular interests and concerns, practising new ways of organising and acting (Deleuze and Guattari, 1988). Politics, from a Deleuzo-Guattarian perspective, is forever in a state of becoming; planes of power are open to internal antagonisms and forces of destruction and decomposition, such that "political assemblage is certainly an art in that it has to be continually made anew, continually reinvented" (Hardt, 1993, page 121). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.